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What Matthew Mitchell said after 67-58 loss to No. 1 South Carolina

Matthew Mitchell (Vicky Graff Photo)

Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening statement…

“Tough game today, and I think you have to give a lot of credit to South Carolina. They’re an awfully tough team there. They’re very talented, well coached and such a great defensive team, make it hard on you to score. Thought they really hustled. I thought we had some chances at some critical points but just couldn’t make a bucket. But I thought if you look at it over the course of 40 minutes, I think there was some tremendous effort from our team as well so it’s always disappointing to lose and we’re going have to do what we’ve done every time this year and bounce back from a defeat and go get a victory Thursday night so that’s what we’ll have our mind on.”

On what team needs to do to ensure top seed in the tournament…

“I think we have to be encouraged that in critical moments, we did the right things, shots just didn’t fall so I just talked to them. We just have to get back in the gym Tuesday with the most positive attitude and have complete belief in ourselves and go out there and just prepare really well for what’s a tough game Thursday night against Georgia, but we will learn from where we made our mistakes today and try to get better. But, I thought we fought hard.”

On Kentucky’s improve movement sense first South Carolina game…

“That was a real wake up call for us, we just didn’t show up very well that night and it was real blessing at the time, a real gift that we were given because we had to quickly lock in on our identity at that point in time and we had to get much tougher and we had to get much more focused and zeroed in on having a fierce, competitive spirit and so that was a great opportunity to learn so you can either let one of those kind of games really shake you or you can rise up and get better and I think our team certainly was able to rise up and get better over the course of the season, it’s a been a long time since January 2. I think we’ve made a lot of improvement and I thought we fought hard today in some critical points to get back in the game when South Carolina would make a run, so I thought you saw some toughness from our team today and we certainly are not pleased at the result or how we played but we have to continue to focus on how can we be a successful team and a big ingredient in that is being physically tough and mentally tough. I thought there was a time where we welted a little bit in the first quarter and sort of stopped playing there for a couple of minutes and gave them some pretty easy buckets and I was real proud we were able to get it together. We got it together and came back and tried to work hard throughout the game so just learn from all the things that went wrong today and get better, but understand we have to remain tough and keep fighting for one of the top four seeds.”

On how Kentucky can be successful going forward…

“We need to focus on how we can be a successful team. A big ingredient on how we can be a successful team is being physically tough and mentally tough. I thought there was a time where we wilted a little bit in the first quarter and sort of just stopped playing there for a couple of minutes, and we gave them some pretty easy buckets. I was real proud that we were able to get it together. We were able to get it together, and we came back and tried to work hard throughout the game. So, just learn from all the things that went wrong today and get better but understand that we have to be tough and keep fighting for one of those top-four seeds.”

On Dawn Staley saying Kentucky controlled the tempo the entire game…

“Well, one big key where they just had an avalanche on us was points off turnovers, and we didn’t take care of the basketball in Columbia, and so I thought we were much better today in some of those stats. We were much tougher with the ball and I thought we were much more patient with the basketball. We didn’t score enough buckets, but you did see us at the end of the clock sometimes, making a big play that helped us hang in there. A bad shot versus South Carolina is really like a turnover, is what we try to tell our players. If you go in, and you’re off balance, and you’re knocked to the floor. They are so great in transition, and now you’re not balanced on transition defense, and they just can absolutely get going. I thought it was really important for our team to make good, on-balanced shots and limit our exposure to runs by taking bad shots and letting that fuel their transition offense. I think we certainly did a better job than we did January 2, but it still wasn’t good enough. We just have to stay at it and keep fighting and see if we can get better.”

On the crowd…

“Great crowd, incredible crowd. We need another one on Thursday (for Senior Night against Georgia). We have five really special seniors, it’s a very special senior class for us. We will be highly motivated to win. The crowd today was just terrific, they got behind us all-day long and I appreciate that. I can’t tell you how much we care about this group of seniors and a big crowd in their seats early would be a great way to send out a group of seniors that’s worked hard for us.”

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